I attended the Suzuki Association of the Americas 2014 Conference in Minneapolis, MN, held May 22 to 26. I was delighted to find other people doing improvisation with young children there and holding sessions on their experiences.
The first one I heard was John Hamil from the Kansas City area. He is a bassist and teaches young children as well as older ones. He brings them into improvisation by means of some of the basic bassist skills needed in pop band gig work. He then develops these concepts into more advanced techniques. That sounds practical to me.
The next Improvisation session I attended was was done by Lisa Rebecca Caravan and Meredith Blecha-Wells, both cellists. They worked with cello students to show how they start improvisation work in their studios. They also start with basic skills that the beginning student has and give them a new idea; make something up within a given framework/key. Then they moved on to more parts of the improvisation set up. The kids pick it up easily when we start simply and they feel at ease.
The third Improvisation session I attended was given by Nancy Modell of Springfield, NJ. She brought video recordings of her piano students performing their compositions. She explained how she leads them to composition by way of improvisation, which of course is a natural progression. She has them perform their pieces in a performance setting, for parents and friends. They love the sense of accomplishment.
I was so excited by being able to watch others teach improvisation and talk about what they are doing. I don’t feel like I’m the only one with this idea. I’m happy that the idea is gaining traction in studios around the country.